The First Crusade. The Reasons We Do This Haven’t Changed.

by Daniel Russ on January 6, 2012

Peter The Hermit Led The First Crusade

Peter The Hermit



When Alexius, governor of Constantinople send an envoy to the Vatican to ask the Pope for help building an army, he expected a large contingent of French and English Knights, and a few regiments of Barbarian auxiliaries. He didn’t expect that there at the gates of Constantinople that he would be greeted by over 60,000 peasants, ignorant, unbathed, uneducated masses, armed with swords and bows and arrows and javelins and clubs. Many of these Crusaders were little more than highly motivated vagabonds who had already committed horrific crimes that imprecated the Crusades for years to come as an indictment on them; that rather than be considered anything remotely holy, the Crusades were from here on remembered as a measure of barbarity. What started as a difference in ideology became a genocide meant to mundify the Mid East of anyone who disagreed with the Church. No small task.


Peter the Hermit was one of the earliest most charismatic speakers around the Pope in the late 11th century. He is said to have convinced the Pope to allow a people’s army to invade the Mideast. He apparently had set off on a Crusade by himself and was stopped by the Seljik Turks who brutalized him. In subsequent years, he campaigned hard for a military intervention in the Mideast. While he was not a part of the Council at Clermont, Pope Urban II’s overseeing policy apparatus for the Crusades, he was an active player raising troops. He was allowed to lead of one of the five contingent arms of the invasion. It is said that few who heard him speak avoided the service that itself was elevated from a violent invasion to a holy sacrament.



Scholars are aware also that the Arabs under the Fatimids were generally happy and did not coalesce into resistance groups. The Seljiks were different. Their rule was absolutely authoritarian, and territorial grabs were in the making. So the Crusades could also be a reaction to an imperial Islam, not necessarily a benevolent one. The Battle of Manzikert was a decisive defeat of the Byzantine Army and it preceded a complete rearrangement of the power in the area. Following Manzikert we saw the land grabs into Byzantine territory, Nicaea and Antioch as examples, by the Turks. So the First Crusades did not happen in a vacuum, the Westerners and the Easterners were scaring each other and their leaders were inciting them to visit violence upon each other. The Siege of Nicaea was a replevin that was justified after Manzikert.


The nobles who held sway in courts around Europe were influential as well in inciting Europeans to invade. It was a matter of greed and position. Just controlling the Bosporus was a powerful way of profiting from trade in and out of Central Asia. Wealth and adventure might also have inspired many wealthy knights to form together and attack, not unlike the ay the New World beckoned so many afterwards. Just coming back from the New World, or returning from a crusade distinguished one.



After the first Crusade took the taking of Jerusalem, many of the Crusaders felt the vow to take the city back from the Muslims had been filled and they returned home, forever famous for their deeds, if not somewhat richer. What is remarkable is that the Arab towns and communities that were attacked by Crusader armies were magnificent places. Many of them housed public parks and universities and people who lived rather well. There were baths and art in the public and performances and the aroma of food filled the air around the city. Around them, these Christian interlopers often appeared to be simply illiterate and armed zealots. Perhaps William Butler Yeats is appropriate here. “The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” The same fires that burned in the hearts of the Christians who made the trip, whether on foot or on noble horses festooned with decorations, still burn in the hearts of people today. For the same reasons. Whether for God, or revenge, or money.


Crusaders Massacre Inhabitants Of Jerusalem In First Crusade

Crusaders Massacre Inhabitants Of Jerusalem





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